Elizabeth Ann Seton, canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1975, was the first native-born American saint in the Roman Catholic Church. Catherine O'Donnell offers the first biography of Seton in seven decades, one that makes excellent use of the new material that has become available in the interim. Seton's life is both representative and extraordinary. Through her experiences one can see the specific effects of revolution, early nation building, foreign war, and territorial and economic development. Her conversion marks her out as exceptional, and the opportunities for leadership and institution building afforded her by the Catholic Church are unique. Yet, Seton is largely absent from standard accounts of the early American republic and from explorations of women's lives in the period. Broad histories of Catholicism overlook her in favor or the clergy and the ecclesiastical hierarchy, while the devotional literature that celebrates her blurs the details of both the woman and her era.Catherine O'Donnell draws on a wealth of materials from archives in the United States and Europe. These include Seton's own diary; the correspondence, spiritual reflections, copybooks, and letters of her contemporary Sisters; as well as account books, architectural plans, discipline records, and the papers of priests and prelates.
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